Ontario's education workers given go-ahead to legally walk off the job on Nov. 3
Published Monday, October 17, 2022 6:24AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, October 17, 2022 3:24PM EDT
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) could go on strike as early as Nov. 3 if a contract agreement isn't reached with the province or the if the government doesn't intervene.
On Oct. 3, the province’s 50,000 education workers, which include custodians, early childhood educators and school administration staff, voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike. More than 80 per cent of its 55,000 education workers voted over 10 days with 96.5 per cent electing to walk off the job if a contract could not be reached, CUPE said.
The union asked the Ontario Ministry of Labour to grant them what is known as a no-board report, which means that a board of conciliation will not be appointed, four days later on Oct. 7, the Friday before the Thanksgiving weekend.
In a tweet, posted shortly before noon today, CUPE said their request has been approved meaning Ontario's education workers can legally walk off the job in 17 days. The union is, however, required to give five days' notice of any job action.
This news comes as CUPE and the provincial government enter into mediation in an effort to negotiate a new collective agreement for Ontario’s 50,000 frontline education workers.
The parties are currently meeting at downtown Toronto's Sheraton Centre Hotel.
Among other things, the union wants a yearly wage increase of $3.25/hour (11.7 per cent), early childhood educators in every kindergarten class, five additional paid days before the start of the school year, 30 minutes of paid daily prep time, an increase in overtime pay, and a $100 million investment in new job creation.
The Ford government, meanwhile, has proposed a four-year deal that includes a two per cent annual raise for workers who make under $40,000 and a 1.25 per cent yearly wage increase for those who make more.
“We want to reach a negotiated agreement that will guarantee service improvements for students, help solve school boards’ problems hiring and keeping qualified employees, and secure a significant wage increase for the lowest-paid frontline education workers that’s long overdue,” Laura Walton, an educational assistant who serves as the president of CUPE’s Ontario School Boards Council of Unions, said in an Oct. 16 news release.
“My coworkers across Ontario are expecting to see an offer that shows this government understands we’ve taken forced pay cuts for the last decade and now our wages are being eroded even more by high inflation. We welcome the assistance of a mediator to help us get a deal done that meets the needs of students, parents, and frontline workers.”
Walton went on to say that their proposals are “reasonable, necessary, and affordable” and should be accepted by Doug Ford who “has the power and resources to accept our proposals for student success and good jobs any time.”
Ontario’s Education Minister Stephen Lecce, in a written statement, previously said that the government has provided a “reasonable offer that also protects the most generous benefits and pension plan in the country.” In a written statement, Lecce also said his side would “continue to remain at the table to make sure kids stay in class without interruption right through to June.”
The education workers, who have also said they’re “committed to stay at the table as long as more dates are offered and movement towards an acceptable agreement is made,” have since asked for a third bargaining date to take place on Oct. 19. Two days of negotiations on Oct. 17 and 18 were previously scheduled.
William Kaplan, the mediator, previously helped this group of workers and the Ford government reach a contract settlement in 2019.
All five of Ontario’s key education unions are currently in the midst of bargaining with the Province after their contracts expired on Aug. 31.
With files from The Canadian Press